A coalescence of geopolitical issues -- from natural disasters and pandemics to social and political unrest and war -- has placed a tremendous strain on supply chains, which is producing uncertainty for businesses of all kinds and highlighting the need to nurture companies from diverse backgrounds. 

In fact, WWT Board member Priscilla Hill-Ardoin identified a diverse portfolio of suppliers as "nothing short of indispensable."

Creating a culture of inclusion encourages multiple perspectives, experiences and capabilities in problem solving. The results are significant to innovative and creative business outcomes.

Ying McGuire
Ying McGuire

We recently caught up with Ying McGuire, CEO and president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), to discuss the importance of being intentional with spending and why access to opportunity is the biggest key to fostering a diverse, resilient supply chain.

NMSDC seeks to create connections between minority business enterprises (MBEs) and corporations, MBEs and the public sector, and MBEs and other MBEs, to help them benefit from each other, stoking entrepreneurship and growing wealth for systemically excluded communities.

Complications and delays in the global supply chain are having massive implications on businesses worldwide. It seems like a great opportunity to insert supplier diversity into the conversation. Why? 

While we incubate and nurture a new generation of supply chain capabilities, we need to look at systematically supporting communities of color. Make it a chance for them to have unbiased opportunity to participate. 

Access to opportunity is one of the top drivers to be able to grow an MBE and create generational wealth in communities of color. From that standpoint, promoting a diverse supply chain is more urgent than ever. If a majority of our country doesn't have equal opportunity to partner in the supply chain, how do compete with countries with a population of 1.6 billion? For the sake of our country's competitiveness, we need to invest in communities of color and help them create generational wealth through entrepreneurship -- just like Dave Steward did when he started World Wide Technology. We need many more Dave Stewards to increase competitiveness and spur innovation. 

Are you seeing progress in that regard?  

It requires a lot of intentionality to make it happen. In the C-suite, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of buy in. We traditionally work with chief procurement officers or supply chain leaders, so our message resonates with them. But a lot of decisions are being made by line of business leaders – CMOs, CIOs, CFOs, and CEOs. The question is how can we get in front of them to tell these stories? The next step is to translate those conversations into action. 

What does action look like? 

We're launching our 50th Anniversary Conference & Exchange later this year and our theme is: It's time to disrupt our own status quo. The status quo over the last 50 years has been compliance. That needs to be disrupted. It's no longer about compliance. It's about economic development. 

We did an economic impact study that looked at the last 50 years. NMSDC-certified MBEs have generated $400 billion in economic output annually  and created or sustained 1.75 million jobs annually. But we can't spend another 50 years to cover the same distance. Technology has accelerated and so should our progress. We've set an ambitious goal to get to $1 trillion in NMSDC-certified MBE annual revenue. In order to get there, we must build NMSDC's institutional capabilities. We need to create more robust programming and reach out to more MBEs. Today, we certify 15,000 MBEs, but there are over one million MBEs with greater than one employee out there. We haven't even touched the surface. 

I think we need to get in front of the C-suite leaders through  entities like the Business Roundtable and then also be able to tell this story through an economic lens and not just a compliance one. 

How can we – individually as WWT employees – champion MBE inclusion and supplier diversity? 

It starts from the individual. When you buy anything at all, ask the question: Am I spending my money with the community I want to intentionally drive generational wealth with? Everyone has a network of people they talk to on a daily basis --how are you utilizing that opportunity to evangelize the benefits of supplier diversity? Tell the story day in and day out. Be a brand ambassador. 

From a corporate perspective, look at every expense item in your P&L. And ask the same questions about where you're spending, and with who. Can you leverage or bring up an MBE? Is there room to create or nurture an MBE? I like to tell the story of Toyota, which created a one-woman Hispanic manufacturer from scratch instead of hiring a large firm. They didn't have a Hispanic, woman-owned Tier I supplier. They intentionally went out and found someone in a different industry and helped them pivot into the space by putting them on their manufacturing floor and teaching them how to make truck beds. Now, that company has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and created hundreds of jobs. That kind of intentionality can apply to any company. 

What can we expect at the 50th anniversary NMSDC conference later this fall? 

Well, your very own, Dave Steward, will be one of the keynotes. We launched a community-driven content plan where we went to stakeholders like MBEs and , corporate partners  to ask them what they wanted to hear. It was amazing what they came back with. Just amazing topics and thoughts. We selected some of the top-rated content. It's going to be interesting to talk about topics that attendees are most passionate about. We also created Impact Labs – sessions where stakeholders will take keynote takeaways and springboard them into action. It will be a lot of conversation around how to get to the $1 trillion goal. And the conference will be in New Orleans during Halloween, so you can imagine there will be a lot of fun to be had.